Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX) investors including Canada’s six biggest pension fund managers criticized as excessive a $11.9 million signing bonus paid to John Thornton, co-chairman of the world’s biggest gold producer.
The eight investors, who collectively manage $916 billion, will vote against Toronto-based Barrick’s resolution on executive compensation and the election of the members of its compensation committee at the company’s April 24 annual general meeting, they said in a statement today.
Thornton, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. president and co-chief operating officer, has been a Barrick director since February 2012 and was appointed co-chairman in June. His total compensation was $17 million last year, including the bonus, Barrick said last month in a filing.
“This amount, for a signing bonus for a co-chairman of the board is, to our knowledge, unprecedented in Canada,” said the group, which includes Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.
“This compensation is inconsistent with the governance principle of pay-for-performance and is therefore disproportionate and sets a troubling precedent in Canadian capital markets.”
The bonus was made as an “inducement for Mr. Thornton to assume the co-chairman position and make a substantial commitment of his time to Barrick,” the company said in a March 25 filing. Thornton used the payment, net of tax and withholdings, to buy 177,600 Barrick shares, according to the filing.
The investor group controls a “sizeable number” of Barrick shares, Marie Giguere, executive vice-president, legal affairs and secretariat at Caisse, said by phone today. She declined to provide further details. Andy Lloyd, a Barrick spokesman, declined to comment on the investors’ statement.
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